Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Thoughts on Art Auctions..

Salam & Peace to all

Over the last couple of years many many organisations have held Charity Fundraisers with arts auctions as one method of raising funds. True? Yes.

Over the last couple of years many artists whom I know personally have donated pieces of artwork whole-heartedly. In fact some artists have made specific items for auctioning.

Finally then - over the last couple of years alot of money has been raised from the auctioning of art.

Yes - so what's the problem?


The problems are many:

Since I have nothing better to do - I go into thinking over-drive. And I have thought alot about this whole arts auctioning thing.

Here are my main concerns, after having spoken to other artists, friends and fundraisers:

1. Artists are not always paid for their work. It is expected they will donate 100% free. Over the course of time some artists have become a regular source of donating; this has lead to the 'de-professionalisation' of the relationship between artist and organiser ie the latter almost 'expect' that a piece of artwork will be given for free.

It should be a practise of the organisation interested in artwork to cover at least material costs. Everyone loves canvas work. But how many of us sit and think about the expense of a large canvas? There are now stores [eg The Works] who are producing inexpensive canvas and arts materials BUT many artists make regular purchases of some good quality canvasses for £20-40 as a starter! Here is a reality price-check for non-artists on just 2 items:

I purchased a 400ml can of fixative for pastel work for over £8!
Paintbrushes - don't even go there. £4-8 for a decent little paintbrush!

People love photography and expect them to be mounted in high-quality frames. I searched out the cheapest framers in the city who frame an A3 photograph in non-reflective glass for between £20-30! And there are many artists [outside our network] who won't know about this and will therefore be spending double the amount for it.

These are just two little examples. I have not even mentioned the effort an artist goes through, trying to get a piece of work ready.

Organisers must start setting a budget aside for artist payments. Provided their marketing is correct and the auctioner is a charasmatic speaker - the artwork will prove a great investment.

2. Artists feel morally obliged to give artwork as there is almost an 'expectation' that they need to contribute towards the charitable work.

This could stem from a variety of reasons:
Organisers may not be from 'arts' or 'creative' backgrounds to fully appreciate what it means to produce artwork. Fundraising is always done for charitable causes: artists feel morally incorrect to demand payment or think it may be considered impolite.

They also feel they 'must' contribute something, even if it means creating new work as they don't want to say 'no'. Thus at times, artists may 'drop all other committments' to do artwork!

Artists must understand that that they can't save the world. They need to recoginse their limits and that a prior committment is a priority.

Organisers must avoid 'guilt tactics'. With all the love and respect in the world, they must maintain a professional relationship throughout the entire process of requesting artwork.

3. There are often alot of telephone calls / emails prior to donating work, but some organisations forget the 'thank you' afterwards. Some artists are never told how much their work was auctioned for.

Organisers must acknowledge the artist! This is done for most parts but there are still occaisions when artists receive no acknowledgment. Those artists with websites should have their website addresses mentioned to help their marketing and promotion.

Artists must be told how much their work was auctioned for.

4. Sometimes artwork is auctioned at a price detrimental to the value of the work.

Artists should have a minimum 'sale price' when they agree to donate work. eg "if the painting is not sold for £200 please may I have it back as I could sell it for over £200 easily." This will do justice to the artwork.

Organisers need to take heed to these requests from artists.

5. As mentioned afore, over time certain artists have become a regular source for donating. Such artists are approached at least once every few months for donating artwork.

Artists may want to consider limiting the number of donations per year.

Organisers must be respectful of this. Artwork is the livlihood for many artists [who don't have any other income sources] - it is also one of the most precious assets an artist has [irregardless of whether they have other jobs].

6. Artists are not given much time for preparing an item for auctioning.

Organisers need to give ample time for artists to make new work! Not every artist will have work 'lying around' and even if artist costs are covered - this issue needs to be addressed!

Many people don't understand that not every artist will just get up and do artwork one morning. For many artists [especially those who see art as an extension of their worship] art is not something confined to a table and studio. It requires alot of effort.

I for one, do not have an external workstudio, and in fact I am anti-studio as that goes against the principles of Tranquilart. Many artists do artwork whilst in a state of physical cleanliness ie ablution. Others may do work after their prayer or with a recitation of Sacred Text. It is a deeply personal process for some artists, and as a community we should have more awareness of that.

Artists are humans too! And not painting machines! Even if an organisation is just requesting a digital image and nothing "brand new" - it doesn't mean it could be done in a 24 hour timeframe! Artists have committments to their families, friends, and themselves. Thus a change in mentality is required.

In conclusion where do we go from here?

Well, one thing is clear: artists will become outsourced if their needs are not addressed. Therefore organisers should be more respectful of their needs. Artists and organisers need to work in a mutually healthy relationship. Each one can only benefit the other if both tell one another what their requirements are. And they should not feel afraid to do this.

As more and more artists decide to become fulltime artists, it will become very difficult for certain organisers to just 'demand' artwork from them without agreeing some ground rules... which are actually all quite Shariah-compliant.

No doubt before we see 2006, there will be many requests for artwork :o)

Peace & Prayers

You go gurl...mmmmmhmmmmmm

I just learnt the other day that if you sell your work in galleries (silversmithing but maybe for other things too?) some of the galleries take 200%. What the hay!?

I don't know how it works but thas jus' wha' I was told.

200%? what you mean?

I know that it is standard practise for most Galleries to take commission from the sales of work exhibited on their premises. Some take up to 40% !!!

Is that what you meant?

I guess their rationale is that: if they can offer you the opportunity to sell your work; they have a right to some of the dosh you make :-D

fair nai?


I agree completely,

Ali Omar Ermes has a policy of requesting all organisers to sign an agreement. It will state the amount of pieces he donates, that the organiser will return unsold work and any pieces that are sold the organiser will inform him of the pieces.

Another method is to sell the items for a value that we the artists are happy with. So we can sell a few of our pieces at a price that we are happy with. And than the responsibilty of making the sale will lie with the organiser.

The organiser of a charity event maybe doing it for a good cause. However the painter of a piece is also doing it with a pure intention.

The organiser is driven by the buzz of putting together a great event, raising money and having a successful event.

Wherelse the artist is driven by pleasing God, to produce a beauty that lies within the deepest reccesses of the heart and souls onto a material for the world to appreciate a God inspired work. Often it is a crystallization of a heavenly influenced idea.

If the organiser is unable to respect and appreciate the above, than they really (I hate to say this) should not bother.

The world revolves around self interest today and unfortuantely so do a lot of these "organisers", unless we look after our own, believe me they will not look out for us.

God created everything in balance, heaven earth, night day, deen dunya, we need to balance between the two. We cannot give away everything. Charity can be done in many forms, feeding family, buying clothes for your husband or wife. We should NOT be forced into these guilt ridden charity trips!

From the artist.
Walaikumslam Artist!


I think the suggestion of selling the work to the organiser is neat. In fact if memory serves me right - I have done that in the past (with smaller charities etc). However, with the 'big' charity fundraisers for disasters or building projects etc one feels almost :-/ if they utter anything with the exception of "Yeah it will be done!"

One of the reasons I wrote this piece was because a friend of mine got very angry with me after we spoke about this topic. She is the one in fact who said "You can't save the world." And pointed out a number of possibilities that one could explore. One being: reducing the number of donations per year.

I have almost come to a decision with regards this issue. And hopefully when Tranquilart re-emerges my decision will be executed. I know some people will not understand but I guess we are all in better positions to judge our situtions.

>>Wherelse the artist is driven by pleasing God, to produce a beauty that lies within the deepest reccesses of the heart and souls onto a material for the world to appreciate a God inspired work. Often it is a crystallization of a heavenly influenced idea.<<

Very true.
As I have become more and more deprived of doing any artwork, the work has created itself in my imagination.. For once in my arty-life I recognised that essentially the work is a reflection and extension of me. When any artists work is sold - so too is their philosophy. But how many people know what the work 'is bout'?

Bint-eh Adam
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